We help choose the ideal car for your needs and your budget…
Budget: R140 000
Status: Single parent of two
Vehicle type: Budget crossover
Given the poorly maintained roads where they live, our buyer requires a vehicle with extra ground clearance to safely negotiate those annoying potholes, plus a higher driving position for better visibility than offered by a standard budget hatch.
More and more crossovers are being launched every year and, for this exercise, we’ve selected some of our favourite budget examples from a few years back. If the buyer is willing to compromise on mileage, more options come into play.
Our choice: Renault Sandero Stepway 66 kW Turbo Dynamique
0 to 100 km/h: 14,76 sec
Top speed: 175 km/h
Power: 66 kW
Torque: 135 N.m
CO2: 161 g/km
CAR fuel index: 6,24 L/100 km
Renault’s Sandero has been with us for some time now. This second generation arrived in 2014 and, while based on a vehicle from Renault’s budget brand, Dacia, quality levels are generally high.
The popular Stepway derivative has extra cladding and a raised ride height with spacious seating and respectable luggage capacity. The 0,9-litre, three-cylinder turbopetrol engine may not be to everyone’s taste, but thanks to sufficient torque at low revs, it performs admirably and boasts excellent fuel economy.
Specification levels are highly impressive for a budget buy, with electric windows and mirrors, rear parking sensors, Bluetooth audio and phone connectivity, steering wheel controls and cruise control. Safety-wise, the Stepway offers four airbags, ABS with ABD and BAS, plus stability control. We noted replacement parts are affordable.
The real clincher here is that the ground clearance is 193 mm, aided by meaty tyres measuring 185/65 R15, and consequently the seating position is lofty.
Service intervals are every 15 000 km, but note that the service plan spans only two years or 30 000 km, so it would have expired on a 2014 model. Thankfully, a camchain is used on this small engine, so should not need replacement anytime soon.
Space: 5 seats, 1 000L
Safety and aids: 4 airbags, ABS/EBD/EBA
Cost of 4 tyres: R3 480
Road test: July 2014
Option 2: Toyota Etios Cross 1,5
0 to 100 km/h: 12,03 sec
Top speed: 165 km/h
Power: 66 kW
Torque: 132 N.m
CO2: 138 g/km
CAR fuel index: 7,20 L/100 km
The Etios range is the most popular seller of these three, but the Cross derivative’s overwrought styling has proved to be somewhat divisive; buyers appear to either love or loathe all that added black plastic and faux-chrome trim. Ground clearance is a decent 155 mm.
The interior, with its centrally mounted instruments and low-rent plastics, is not as polished as the Renault’s, but the cabin is very spacious and build quality is Toyota-solid.
The Etios’ best characteristic is its sporty powertrain. It boasts a willing 1,5-litre engine coupled to a slick five-speed gearbox that makes for enjoyable motoring. Its power output is identical to the Renault’s at 66 kW, but with 132 N.m, it makes do with a touch less available torque. If it’s heavy loads you need to carry or steep hills to climb, though, this could be a good choice because its acceleration is brisk.
The boot capacity does not quite match up with the interior space and the Etios has the smallest luggage bay of these three, with an aperture that’s also quite narrow. On the other hand, the Etios offers the most rear kneeroom, but the Sandero has more rear headroom.
Safety-wise, you can expect two airbags and ABS, but no Isofix. Like the Sandero, the Cross is sold with a two-year/30 000 km service plan that will have expired by now. Parts prices are the highest here.
Space: 5 seats, 200/978 L
Safety and aids: 2 airbags, ABS
Cost of 4 tyres: R3 956
Road test: October 2014
Option 3: Volkswagen Polo Vivo Maxx 1,6
0 to 100 km/h: 10,60 sec
Top speed: 187 km/h
Power: 77 kW
Torque: 155 N.m
CO2: 157 g/km
CAR fuel index: 7,92 L/100 km
Crossovers are often more about looks than anything else and this is the case with the Vivo Maxx. Yes, it has roof rails, a boisterous power output of 77 kW that sees it perform with gusto, a slick five-speed manual gearbox, some increase in ground clearance and black go-faster decals … but there it seems to grind to a halt.
Despite its quest for bulked-up looks, the Maxx is still more Vivo than SUV. The Maxx may well be the most refined and most enjoyable of this bunch thanks to its accomplished underpinnings and sophisticated interior, but ground clearance of 141 mm will pose challenges for our secret shopper. Furthermore, the Maxx’s 17-inch wheel size sounds promising, but unfortunately they’re shod with low-profile 215/40 R17 tyres that simply do not perform well on gravel or potholed roads. In this aspect, therefore, the crossover philosophy of mimicking SUV characteristics does become muddled.
That said, we’ve selected it for this exercise because it does so many other things well. Feature-wise, USB, SD card and Bluetooth facilities are included with a safety package that also comes with ABS, EBD and dual airbags.
A service plan was an option and service intervals are 15 000 km. The more upmarket, pricier VW Cross Polo is also worth mentioning.
Space: 5 seats, 232/888 L
Safety and aids: 2 airbags, ABS and EBD
Cost of 4 tyres: R8 052
Road test: August 2013